GIVEN the chance, most university students would prefer to schedule late classes so that they can sleep longer. However, new research shows students who take early classes are more likely to get higher grades.
Psychologists Pamela Thacher and Serge Onyper of St Lawrence University in Canton, New York found that students in later classes get more sleep but they are also more likely to abuse alcohol than those taking morning classes.
"The real information that we found is that those who wake up later are drinking more and discovering their inner demons," said Thacher, a psychology professor.
"It is not that larks are superior, or that owls are different," she added.
"Those who don't drink are not affected, and more sleep doesn't make a difference."
Thacher and Onyper studied the waking or "rising" habits of college students. The students completed cognitive tasks, a one-week retrospective sleep diary and questionnaires about sleep, class schedules, alcohol consumption and mood.
Their studies showed that students who started their classes later had a slightly lower grade point average.
Onyper said that although students with late classes get more sleep, drinking more alcohol, which is known to disrupt sleep, may reduce its benefits.
"Prior to this study, I advocated having classes start later in the morning, so that students could get more sleep," said Thacher, who presented the findings at a sleep conference.
"But now, I would say that morning classes that start between 8 or 8.30am are probably a much better choice for most students," she said.